It’s my anniversary! On August 15, 2011, following an invitation to join the editorial team at HearingHealthMatters.org, I posted my first blog as the Better Hearing Consumer – and I haven’t stopped writing since. When people ask how I think of something to write week after week, my answer is that hearing loss touches every corner of our lives and so there is always something to write about.
To celebrate, in this 53rd blog I am including three different poems from past posts. While not great poetry, I admit, they look down into some of the deep emotional wells of people with hearing loss: Anger & Frustration, Acceptance & Gratitude, and the Despair That Leads to Hope.
If I Could Move Your Lips For You
If I could move your lips for you, I would.
We’ve been friends forever and I can read your emotions, easily.
But reading your words is tough because your lips don’t move,
Friendships with new people, wonderful people, have not flourished
Under the strain of my communication challenges, but
You are my friend – and I want to keep talking with you forever.
And today, meeting in Starbucks, I’m in trouble
As I watch, listen and interpret your lips,
Shaping words for me to see and breathing sounds for me to hear.
Your lips are smiling – but your eyes are not.
Your fingers drum the café tabletop,
Competing with the noise of a hundred coffee cups.
We could talk in a quiet, well-lit place,
But we love the atmosphere here,
And the lower lighting flatters our age.
So whose fault is it – yours, mine or ours –
When for the ten thousandth time
I must ask you to repeat yourself?
I sense your invisible eye-rolling and sighing.
Immediately, I’m both apologetic and resentful
And I want to shout:
OK, I’m sorry to ask you to repeat – again,
But maybe if you moved your damn lips!?
I do everything I can to make it easier,
This café isn’t that loud, or that dark.
We’re sitting close and I’m wired for sound.
The only thing I can’t control is the way you move your lips.
I hate to say it, but you missed the “giving good lip” gene.
You’re just not good at it.
Sometimes I want to reach over and grab a lip in each hand and move them,
So that you can feel how the words should come out.
But I don’t say this, because it’s difficult to change how we speak, and I know you try.
We’ve been friends forever, and I love you.
But if I could move your lips for you, I would:
Keep them pointed in my direction
Move them apart from each other
Slow them down
Free them from food and fingers
Match their expression with your eyes
Let them enjoy rolling around the vowels,
Playing percussion with the consonants
If I could move your lips for you, I would.
But I can’t.
So please tell me – again – what you just said.
– Gael Hannan, 2012
Lips At My Pillow
In the soft grey of not-quite-day
His sweet-sour breath pats my cheek in puffs of soundless words.
Drowsy, I pull his 5-year-old mouth to my ear
“Mommy, can I get up now?”
My grunt is taken for a yes, and I feel the vibrations of his feet
Quickly thump-thump-thumping out of the room.
Turning on the pillow I see you with
Eyes closed, and lips smiling at mother and son.
Your lips move.
Answering, I feel my voice in my throat –
You fall back asleep and I watch you,
Your face, your lips, your deep voice so easy to understand.
As I watch your strong silent lips
I remember another dawn when I saw them say
“Let’s get married.”
I made you mouth it again and again
To be sure I understood, to give the right answer.
Your lips – I can read their every nuance, they tell me everything.
When you are about to make a joke
When a kiss is blowing my way
When they tighten in anger
And soften in love.
I can ‘read’ you and our son – this language I know.
But should I lose the last shred of sound
Your voices will remain in my ears.
I will always understand you –
Through your smiles, your eyes, your hands and your arms.
I will always have your touch –
And every dawn I will have
Your lips at my pillow.
Gael Hannan © 2011
Now That I Know
The new baby smiled and cooed and thrived,
and her parents knew she was well.
But when at age two, she didn’t always turn, didn’t always answer,
and started a lifetime of saying “What?,”
her parents knew something was different.
The doctors said,
“It’s her hearing.
It will worsen.
It will never get better.
No, there’s nothing you can do.
Hearing aids won’t help.
Have her sit at the front of the class and
Make sure she pays attention!
Oh, and come and see me in a year, and we’ll test her hearing again…
and the year after that…
and the year after that…”
My parents believed the doctors, and did what they were told.
But now that I know–a lifetime later–about hearing loss,
about living, working, loving with hearing loss,
I know what could have been different then,
and what must be different now.
Now that I know that hearing aids can help,
I cry for the years I spent scrunching my face,
trying to follow, straining to understand,
for the years of sounds and words that were off my radar.
Now that I know how delicious the sounds of speech are,
I regret not hearing the nuances of the voices of my past.
Now that I know that my own speech was slurred and blurred,
that I chopped off the endings of words because
I didn’t know they were supposed to be there,
I wish that someone had helped my parents to help me to enunciate.
With a hearing aid, I would have heard myself.
And now that I know that most of the technology I now embrace
was only dreamed of then,
My bitter regrets soften, and I am grateful
for dreams that have been made real.
But now that I have learned that all the technology in the world
cannot completely banish the hurt, confusion, fear, and anger
that come with hearing loss,
I can start to change my memories of pain
into the sharing of experiences.
Because now I know that by meeting even one other person
who would walk with me on my highway,
sit with me by the side of the road as I hold my head in my hands,
And then climb with me to the top of the mountain –
The irons will unlock from my feet and the tape
will be removed from my mouth.
Now I know that I must say to someone else,
“I know what you are feeling, because I have hearing loss, too.
Here’s a road you can take – someone showed it to me.
Now, let me walk with you.”
– Gael Hannan 2011
Thank you for all the comments and feedback over the past 12 months; I am grateful to be a member of the HHTM blog team. Here’s to another interesting year of sharing thoughts and feelings and ideas about our lives with hearing loss.